Tuesday 26 September 2017

Ireland defeat would be unthinkable to All Black fans - Steve Hansen

New Zealand All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen
New Zealand All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen

Nick Purewal

The New Zealand public would refuse to countenance a first-ever defeat to Ireland, according to Steve Hansen.

But the All Blacks would not have it any other way, believes the Kiwis' head coach.

Ireland have never beaten the All Blacks, despite 27 attempts, and Hansen admitted his side can ill afford for that to change in Dublin on Sunday.

New Zealand are chasing completing a perfect season of 14 wins with victory this weekend, to become the first professional-era side to achieve the feat.

Hansen pledged his side will take those dual pressures in their stride at the Aviva Stadium.

He said: "You have got to understand that there is an amazing amount of pressure on this team all the time.

"The expectation is that not only do they win but they play really well all the time - that's just from the fans.

"But we wouldn't have it any other way as their expectations force us to go higher with ours because we are the people in the team, so that is just something to add to the pot.

"You have to embrace pressure or it will overcome you and control you and we don't want to be controlled by pressure.

"Legacy is everything to the All Blacks.

"The reason the expectation is so high from the fans is the legacy, the history of this team is such that people expect them to win and the jersey hasn't changed much."

Hansen has made seven changes to the side that eased past England 30-22 at Twickenham last weekend.

Hooker Andrew Hore will win his 83rd and potentially final cap on Sunday, with the 35-year-old expected to retire at the end of the season.

New Zealand have rested blindside flanker Liam Messam, Hansen handing an opportunity to 22-year-old Auckland Blues loose forward Steven Luatua.

Ireland ran New Zealand mighty close in Christchurch in June, losing out 22-19 in the second Test of a three-match series.

Just a week later the All Blacks dispatched Ireland 60-0, shattering the perceived progress from the previous encounter.

Hansen is refusing to take Joe Schmidt's men lightly this weekend though - and has warned his players to stay focused.

Hansen said: "They have a huge passion, they showed in Christchurch when they really get up to play they have a physicality and skill set that can cause anyone trouble so we respect them highly.

"In reflection completing the sweep would mean a lot but at the moment it cannot afford to be the focus.

"We haven't been that satisfied with either the French or the English games and how we played, so the whole focus this week has just been on preparing really well.

"We have talked about the dangers of losing focus - we saw last year what happens when you do that.

"We have been on heaps and heaps of tours a few of us and you start thinking about getting home and all that and then you are not preparing genuinely."

NEW ZEALAND AIMING FOR PERFECT YEAR

World champions New Zealand are one step away from the perfect year.

Here, Nick Purewal reviews the All Blacks' 13 victories in 2013.

(1)New Zealand 23 France 13 (Auckland, June 8): Despite tries from scrum-half Aaron Smith and flanker Sam Cane, it was New Zealand's gritty defence that sealed their first win of the season.

(2)New Zealand 30 France 0 (Auckland, June 15): Steve Hansen's men hit their stride with three unanswered tries, brushing aside Philippe Saint-Andre's stunned France team.

(3)New Zealand 24 France 9 (New Plymouth, June 22): Ben Smith and Beauden Barrett notched the scores that completed the Kiwis' clean-sweep series victory.

(4)Australia 29 New Zealand 47 (Sydney, August 17): Irresistible New Zealand hit the Wallabies with six tries, and in their own back yard to boot.

(5)New Zealand 27 Australia 16 (Wellington, August 24): Debutant Tom Taylor's four-penalty haul guided New Zealand to retaining the Bledisloe Cup.

(6)New Zealand 28 Argentina 13 (Hamilton, September 7): Back-rower Kieran Read conjured two try assists in an indomitable performance to break a stern Argentine resistance.

(7)New Zealand 29 South Africa 15 (Auckland, September 14): A bonus-point victory over the potent Springboks sent a global warning the All Blacks were in no mood to ease their world domination.

(8)Argentina 15 New Zealand 33 (La Plata, September 29): Four unanswered tries in Argentina underpinned a balanced All Blacks performance, as stingy in defence as they were brutal in attack.

(9)South Africa 27 New Zealand 38 (Johannesburg, October 6): The world watched in awe as the globe's two dominant forces traded stunning try for stunning try. Bryan Habana's peerless early brace had the hosts in charge, but the lightning wing then limped out with a torn hamstring. Somehow New Zealand edged home five tries to four in a true all-time classic.

(10)New Zealand 41 Australia 33 (Dunedin, October 19): Stubborn New Zealand equalled their startling record of 30-straight home victories. Not a bad milestone to notch before heading off on the Northern Hemisphere tour.

(11)New Zealand 54 Japan 6 (Tokyo, November 2): Eight tries with no reply summed up the gulf in class between emerging nation Japan, and the unruffled All Black titans.

(12)New Zealand 26 France 19 (Paris, November 10): Despite boasting a world-record 853 caps, the All Blacks so nearly conceded their 100 per cent record. Charles Piutau's sublime defence-drawing flick-pass sent Kieran Read home for the match-saving try.

(13)England 22 New Zealand 30 (London, November 17): Just when England thought they could repeat the heroics of their 38-18 triumph over the All Blacks of last autumn, up popped Ma'a Nonu. The wrecking-ball centre's defence-shredding offload sent Julian Savea home to seal win number 13.

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